Like a cross-over episode from two bad TV shows, Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance testified before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations last week. His Senate Committee staff is generally regarded as having issues presenting a balanced or complete view of the FDA and industry’s efforts to monitor the safety and efficacy of approved medication.
In his testimony, the Senator urged Congress to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration more power to monitor drugs’ safety after they enter the market.
He raised questions about whether or not various post-marketing studies sanctioned by the FDA were properly performed. He talked about his twice-introduced legislation to establish an independent office of drug safety at the FDA, a Center for Postmarket Drug Evaluation and Research. This entity would tackle the alleged lack of equality between the Office of New Drugs (OND), which decides whether to approve a drug, and the Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology (OSE). OSE, he said, is the office that monitors a drug’s safety once it’s on the market and being sold to patients.
The supposed imbalance between OND and OSE was apparent, he argued, in various drug safety issues that developed into major mass torts. Individuals in the office responsible for post-market surveillance should be allowed to provide an “independent opinion” based on the best available evidence, he asserted. He claimed vaguely that FDA physicians and scientists committed to post-market monitoring of drugs have sometimes been suppressed or ignored.
Other speakers included a Yale School of Medicine Professor who testifies for plaintiffs in pharma cases, and the Director of the anti-industry Health Research Group of Public Citizen. More fair balance? Maybe after November.